5 Reasons Why Learners Drop Out of School in South Africa

by Staff Reporter

According to recent studies, it is estimated that four out of 10 Grade 1 learners in South Africa drop out of school before ever reaching matric. Added to this, the Department of Basic Education recently reported that the matric ‘survival rate’, or rather, matric graduation rate is sitting at roughly 62% (this does not account for those who have achieved NSC after schooling).

With so many learners making the decision to drop out of school, it’s crucial to understand the reasons behind this trend in order to prevent further instances of dropout. With that in mind, here are 5 reasons why learners drop out of school in South Africa.

Table of Contents

drop out

1. Learners Drop Out Due to Financial Reasons

For some South African learners, financial struggles at home can make school seem like an extra burden. From not having enough funds for textbooks to grappling with transportation fees, the cost of education can push learners to drop out of school as they prioritise immediate needs over education.

Now, what can be done to ease the financial pressure and prevent learners from deciding to drop out of school? Let’s take a look.

How to Help Learners with Financial Support

In order to assist learners who are struggling financially, educators could consider changing their method of teaching by having the learners share textbooks with their classmates or incorporating more group work if their learners are otherwise unable to afford the materials. 

Alternatively, educators can reach out to communities or non-profit organisations like Adopt-a-School for assistance. Adopt-a-School is a registered non-profit organisation that aims to address the academic, infrastructural, social and security environments in South African schools to ensure that they are conducive to teaching and learning.

Schools that are in need of assistance and would like to receive help from Adopt-a-School can fill in a form on the organisation’s website. Those who would like to get involved can also donate directly to Adopt-a-School in order to help make a difference.

As another alternative, learners in Grade 8 or above who would like to help their peers may consider becoming a member of the School Governing Body (SGB)

Among promoting the best interests of the school, one of the core responsibilities as a member of the SGB is to encourage parents, learners, educators and other staff members at the school, to offer voluntary services to the school. This means parents and learners have a say when it comes to assisting those who are in need of financial assistance or support.

Bored learner staring out the window, reflecting the challenge of drop out due to disengagement and boredom in education

2. Learners Drop Out Because of Boredom

Ever been in a class where time seems to stand still? Yeah, that kind of boredom. If the schoolwork doesn’t light a spark or challenge learners, they might start daydreaming about life beyond those classroom walls—and it won’t be long after that before they decide to turn that dream into reality and drop out of school. 

On the other side of the coin, if the learner does not understand the work, is frequently absent from school or generally causes trouble, then yes, they are bored, but there’s also probably another underlying issue. The learner may have problems at home, or might have difficulty understanding the work. They may also have a learning disability, and therefore, are feigning disinterest in the classroom. 

How to Prevent Boredom in the Classroom

There are several ways to prevent boredom in the classroom. Below, we’ve listed methods for boredom prevention for both learners as well as teachers.

For learners:

  • Participate in class: Learners can ask questions about topics that are difficult in order to dive deeper and learn more. They can also try to engage and collaborate with peers to discuss what is being taught. If they are still struggling, they should ask teachers for clarity or organise study groups to get additional help.
  • Establish short-term and long-term goals: This gives learners a sense of purpose and direction, making the material more relevant and interesting.
  • Connect with the material: Learners can try to relate what they’re learning to real-life situations. Understanding the practical applications of the material can make it more compelling and relatable.
  • Try a new study style: Experiment with different study styles. If learners are more visual, they can create mind maps or diagrams. If they’re an auditory learner, they can try recording and listening to key concepts. If they are following an Individual Support Plan (ISP), they’ll need to communicate with their teacher regarding their specified targets and discuss how they can meet them more effectively.
  • Choose the right subjects: Having learners choose subjects that they’re interested in will prevent them from getting bored in class and add excitement to their academic journey. 

For teachers:

  • Incorporate interactive teaching methods: Use a variety of teaching methods, such as group discussions, hands-on activities, debates and interactive projects. This helps cater to different learning styles and keeps students actively involved.
  • Relate lessons to real-world examples: Connect the material to real-life situations and examples. This helps learners see the practical applications of what they’re learning, making it more interesting and relevant.
  • Encourage active participation: Create an environment that encourages learners to participate actively. Ask open-ended questions, facilitate discussions and invite learners to share their perspectives.
  • Use humour: A well-timed joke or a light-hearted approach can create a positive and enjoyable atmosphere in the classroom.
  • Incorporate learners’ interests: Get to know learners’ interests and integrate relevant examples or topics into lessons. This personalisation can make the material more relatable and captivating for them.
Learner receiving academic support from a teacher, mitigating the risk of drop out

3. Learners Drop Out Due to Lack of Academic Support

Without the right support from teachers, peers and family, learners might feel like they’re navigating a tough obstacle course alone, which may lead to the learner deciding to drop out of school. It’s therefore important to build strong support systems so learners know they’re not in this education journey by themselves.

How to Give Learners Academic Support

Teachers can provide learners with academic support by offering regular office hours (outside school hours) in order to assist learners who are struggling. They can also encourage peer learning, which is a teaching method that sees learners teaching their peers under the supervision of the teacher. 

Additional academic support also includes having review sessions, extra lessons and providing additional material to aid learning. 

There are also several ways that learners can receive academic support. Beyond scheduling one-on-one time with their teacher, learners can also form study groups with their peers, attend extra lessons at the school, review lessons, ask their parents for help and even download helpful study apps like Reading Eggs, Quizlet and Brainly.

learner considering drop out due to bad mental health

4. Learners Drop Out Because of Their Mental Health

Anxiety, stress, and other mental health challenges can hit learners hard. If educators, parents and guardians are not addressing these issues and providing the right resources, learners might not feel as if they can carry on learning, and they may decide to drop out of school to ease the pressure. What can be done? Let’s take a look.

How to Support Learners Struggling With Their Mental Health

There are several things that educators, parents and guardians can do to support learners who are struggling with their mental health.

Recognise the Impact of Mental Health

Recognising the toll mental health can have on learners’ academic performance, personal growth and happiness will generate awareness about the topic and open a discussion about the measures that can be put in place to support learners who aren’t coping.

Foster a Supportive Environment

Making schools supportive and welcoming is crucial for learners’ mental well-being. Instead of just using regular rules, schools should have strong anti-bullying policies that get to the reasons behind conflicts. Also, organising events and workshops about mental health can help learners understand and care about each other’s feelings. 

Schools should create an atmosphere where learners feel free to talk openly and share their emotions, making sure they know they have support when things are good or tough.

Work With Parents and Guardians

Working together with parents and guardians is really important for taking care of learners’ mental health. When schools and parents build a relationship based on trust and teamwork, it creates a strong support system that goes beyond just what happens in school. 

Keeping communication open, having meetings between parents and teachers and organising workshops about mental health help everyone work together to support learners. By talking openly, schools and parents can team up to notice and handle any issues or worries learners might have, giving them steady support during their time in school.

Give Learners Access to Resources

Ensuring learners can easily get help with their mental health is a crucial part of overall support. Schools can make safe spaces by having caring and well-trained counsellors or mental health experts available. 

However, if counselling is not an option for the school, due to lack of funds or resources, then there are other options available. Organisations like the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) and Childline South Africa, have toll-free numbers that learners can call at any time in order to reach free counselling services

The numbers for both SADAG and Childline South Africa can be found below:

  • South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG): 0800 456 789 
  • Childline South Africa: 116
learner considering drop out due to uncertainty about subject choices

5. Learners Drop Out Due to Uncertainty About Subject Choices

“What do I want to be when I grow up?” is a big question. If learners feel uncertain about their future careers and, by default, their subject choices, they might see school as a detour rather than a path to success. From choosing the wrong subject choices in Grade 9 to peer pressure and lack of guidance, many learners are unsure of how to choose their subjects in high school.

This uncertainty often leads to learners choosing the incorrect subjects in terms of level of difficulty and interest. For instance, learners may be pressured into choosing mathematics instead of mathematical literacy, even though their chosen career path does not require them to do maths core.

Learners may also choose subjects that their friends choose instead of thinking about their career path, as they may not be certain about what career is best suited to them at the time. 

The result of all this uncertainty leads to the learner struggling in school, and if they don’t get the support they need, they may decide to drop out.

How can learners overcome uncertainty? There’s an easy solution, which we’ve outlined below:

How to Help Learners Who Are Feeling Uncertain

Psychometric tests, like FundiMatch, are a great way to help learners who are feeling uncertain about their subject choices as well as their career path. Learners who are in Grade 9, and who are unsure of what subjects they’d like to choose, can utilise psychometric assessment platforms like FundiMatch to guide them. 

How does it work? Well, FundiMatch essentially evaluates the learner’s personality, skills, aptitude and IQ, which gives them a detailed report about who they are and what their ideal career could be. Armed with this knowledge, learners are able to make informed decisions about their subject choices and future careers. This will allow learners to choose subjects in Grade 10 that align with their interests and prevent dropout. 

learner taking psychometric test and decreasing their chances of drop out

Get Psychometric Tests for Your Learners

As you can see, one of the biggest advantages of psychometric tests is that it could prevent learners from deciding to drop out of high school. Considering the benefits of this assessment, you might be thinking about incorporating psychometric testing into your own school’s curriculum! If you’re wondering where to integrate psychometric assessments for learners in South Africa, fear not – FundiMatch has you covered! 

FundiMatch extends its psychometric assessment services to educational institutions, providing a platform that aligns students’ personalities with their most fitting subject choices and career paths

Gain profound insights into learners’ personalities, skills and cognitive abilities by incorporating a FundiMatch psychometric assessment into your school today! 

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